Thursday, November 30, 2006

Updates: The looming smog scandal, and a victory for the good guys has published a new commentary on the other climate disaster -- the state of the air we breathe.

But we do have a victory. Today's Washington Post reports that the EPA has backed away from plans to weaken corporate reporting requirements for toxic chemicals.

Clean Air Watch was among those who had assailed the ill-conceived plan.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia doesn't want to deal with global warming

During today's oral arguments on global warming, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was quizzing James Mikey, assistant attorney general for Massachusetts, which is the lead challenger against the Bush administration's declaration that it doesn't have authority to deal with global warming. We pick up the case in progress:

JUSTICE SCALIA: That isn't, that isn't -- your assertion is that after the pollutant leaves the air and goes up into the stratosphere it is contributing to global warming.

MR. MILKEY: Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist.

JUSTICE SCALIA: That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth….

[The full transcript of the arguments can be found at

Inhofe's last hurrah: blame THE MEDIA for global warming

While many eyes are focused on this morning’s arguments about global warming at the Supreme Court, global warming’s biggest friend is already planning ahead.

Clean Air Watch has learned that Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the soon-to-be-deposed chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is planning one last hurrah, and it’s going to be a doozy:

Inhofe is planning a hearing next week (likely Wednesday, Dec. 6). The theme is “global warming and the media.” Yes, Inhofe is planning to blame the media for its role in informing the public about global warming.

Bashing the media is often the last resort of a floundering politician.

(Shades of Tricky Dick Nixon: who can forget his great line: “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore?”)

And Inhofe seems to be on the verge of a plunge into historic obscurity. (California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently suggested Inhofe exhibited “stone age” thinking. Senator John Warner of Virginia is challenging Inhofe for the post of top Republican on the environment panel. (My money’s on Warner.) And at least one conservative think tank writer is already suggesting that Inhofe may retire in two years.

Back to the media-bashing hearing. We understand that likely Inhofe witnesses could include:

David Deming – an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-wing “think tank” underwritten by ExxonMobil and other opponents of limits on global warming emissions.

Bob Carter – an Australian scientist and frequent contributor to Tech Central Station (yes, ExxonMobil puts money into it, too).

Dan Gainor – an analyst with the conservative Media Research Center’s “Business and Media Institute,” funded by right-wing foundations, who blasted the Fox News Channel last year for a documentary on global warming. (Yes – he smacked around the reliably right-wing Fox for daring to deviate from its usual position as “the best network for coverage of the global warming debate.”)

We don’t know who the Democrats are thinking about calling as witnesses, but perhaps they should consider a couple of media-savvy people with common sense:

--Gov. Schwarzenegger, who ripped Inhofe last Sunday on Meet the Press: “There's always in history been people that are back with their thinking in the Stone Age. And I think that the key thing for us is, is to not pay any attention to those things, because as I said, the science is in, we know the facts, there's not any more debate as to global warming or not. We have global warming and the fact also is that we can do something about it. We can slow it down or we can stop it, but only if everyone is working together.”

--Sports Illustrated writer and NBC football analyst Peter King (work with me here, folks):

“I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:…

No global warming, huh? Why will we be able to go tanning outside today in New Jersey? And why, on the last day of the 11th month of the year, will it be 66 degrees outside?”

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bush team tries to put Humpty Dumpty together to help industry

You may recall the important decision last March by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The court struck down an effort by the Bush administration to carve out a huge new loophole for the coal-burning electric power industry.

In that unanimous decision, the court said that the Bush argument would make sense “only in a Humpty-Dumpty world.”

Well, the administration is trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It is urging the Supreme Court to consider and overturn the case. The electric power industry has been agitating for this move for many weeks.

You’ve got to give the administration points for consistency. It also is arguing the industry position in the big separate case before the Supreme Court this week on global warming.

News notes: a Supreme Court showdown, and much more

A few items worth keeping in mind as we all recover from the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Supreme Showdown: The Supreme Court hears a landmark case this Wednesday on global warming. At issue: does the U.S. EPA have legal authority to regulate global warming pollution. This case could prove crucial in determining how and when greenhouse gas emissions are controlled. This case should also be of particular interest for California and the 10 other states that have adopted California’s global warming emission standards for motor vehicles. For more, see

Global Gasbagger: You may recall last summer that AP science correspondent Seth Borenstein wrote a fascinating piece about electric power industry attempts to raise money for Patrick Michaels, the Cato Institute senior fellow who is one of the “professional doubters” on global warming. Well, Michaels is back in action this week, given the proverbial soapbox by – who else? – the big polluters who make up the Western Business Roundtable and host an annual business festival of access buying.

Duke Dupers? The spin meisters at Duke Energy have been working overtime in recent weeks to green up the corporate image. (The company always says it favors doing something on global warming – until a specific bill comes up for a vote!) In case you missed it, over the recent holiday weekend, AP correspondent Pete Yost filed a most interesting story noting concerns that Duke’s lawyer tried to deceive the Supreme Court in its recent case on new source review.

Wood Worries: The New Haven Register has an interesting piece out today on the potential pollution dangers of outdoor wood boilers. (We have a copy of the report cited here if you’d like it.) Wood boilers pose an emerging pollution problem in states where they have begun to proliferate. You may recall we flagged this issue earlier after reports by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

This is potentially a good science piece that would be relevant in many states, especially in the Northeast, upper Midwest and parts of the West

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Annual Business Festival of Access Buying heads for the hills (Oops -- they forgot the Democrats)

You may recall that in years past, the Western Business Roundtable, run by former Dick Cheney aide Jim Sims, has organized an annual winter meeting in Arizona to encourage business leaders to booze it up and golf with prominent politicos.

(Who can ever forget the wonderful “Mulligans and Margaritas” political fundraiser? )

And now, yes, it’s time once again for The Annual Business Festival of Access Buying (ABFAB!), an opportunity for big polluters to buy access to policy makers in the privacy of a fancy resort. The fun starts November 27.

The sponsors of these political orgies have taken some heat for these adventures in bad taste, and so this year, they are heading for the hills – to be precise, the “Business-Government Summit of the Year” will take place amid “unrivaled luxury” at the Ritz Carlton ski resort in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Yes, the meeting will still feature “many opportunities for public-private sector ideas exchange.”

Among the other “summit” features:

--“The Great Climate Change Debate” featuring Cato Institute fellow Patrick Michaels, on whose behalf industry has passed the hat to make sure he can continue to confuse the climate science debate with industry-friendly nonsense;

--an address by James Connaughton, the chief apologist of the Bush environmental policy;

--a review of the 2006 elections by meeting co-sponsor BIPAC, the political action committee that seeks to elect pro-business candidates to Congress. (BIPAC got thumped in the elections, by the way: its favorites got blown away in six out of seven Senate races. )

-- a "Sneak Peak At The 2007 Congressional Agenda showing what we can expect in 2007 from Congressional leaders."


What “Congressional leaders?” In case the event sponsors weren’t looking, the Democrats captured Congress.


The meeting will also feature the “public launch” of a new effort to promote more coal mining and coal burning in the West.

This looks to be an anti-environmental initiative hiding behind green rhetoric. It is going to be looking for federal funding to underwrite dubious ventures such as coal-to-liquid production.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Power plant toxins linked to death of Texans

Texas Governor Rick Perry really loves a smokestack (see above), but a new study concludes that pollution from the 19 new coal-fired power plants proposed around the state will lead to the premature deaths of roughly 240 Texans a year.

The analysis, released by Public Citizen's Texas office and the Austin-based SEED Coalition, is the latest volley in the battle over the future of Texas' energy.

As noted in today's San Antonio Express:

On the one side are power companies who want to build a new fleet of coal plants, and Gov. Rick Perry, who has ordered state agencies to fast-track the permits of such plants.

On the other side is a growing list of critics worried about the health effects of new plants and the global warming gasses they will spew. These critics, in addition to many environmental and community groups, include the mayors of some large Texas cities including Dallas and Houston.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The upcoming Supreme Court case on global warming

On Nov. 29, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a major case involving global warming.

Below is some background information provided by the Clean Cars Campaign ( ) of which Clean Air Watch is proud to be a member:

The Supreme Court Global Warming Case
Massachusetts v. EPA

On June 26, 2006, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Clean Air Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the greenhouse gases (“GHGs”) that cause global warming. Challenging EPA’s position that it has no such authority is a coalition of nearly 30 states, cities, and environmental organizations. (A complete list of these Petitioners, and all other documents referred to herein, can be found at

While the case directly concerns EPA’s authority over motor vehicle GHG emissions, it has strong implications for California (which has set its own GHG limits for motor vehicles) and the 10 other states that have adopted California’s standards. The outcome also will likely determine whether EPA can regulate GHG emissions from power plants and other industries.

The history of this case goes back to 1998 when, in response to a request from former Congressman Tom DeLay, EPA’s General Counsel formally opined that the Clean Air Act gives EPA authority to regulate the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. EPA’s opinion was based on the fact that the Act authorizes EPA to regulate emissions of “any air pollutant” that “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” EPA concluded that GHGs are “air pollutants” (defined in the Clean Air Act as “any physical [or] chemical … substance or matter emitted into … the ambient air”), and Congress further defined “welfare” to include “effects on weather and climate.”

In 1999, the Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) led a coalition of environmental groups in petitioning EPA to set emission standards for CO2 and other vehicle GHG emissions. (Vehicle emissions are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., comprising almost 24% of U.S. GHG emissions.) After more than three years without a response, in 2002 CTA and Sierra Club sued EPA to for unreasonably delaying action on the petition. This resulted in EPA’s decision denying the petition, where EPA first reversed its prior position and now asserted that Congress did not intend to give it authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate anything related to global warming, and then said that even if it had such authority, it would not regulate GHGs because it would be bad public policy to do so.

Petitioners challenged this decision, and in July 2005 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted 2-1 to let EPA’s decision stand. The panel splintered three ways, producing no majority opinion; Judge Sentelle found that because climate change affects everybody, no one has the “particularized injury” required to establish standing. Judge Randolph assumed the existence of EPA’s authority, but ruled for EPA on its “policy” grounds. Judge Tatel wrote that the Clean Air Act does authorize EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, and that EPA’s “policy reasons” for refusing to do so were not valid under the Clean Air Act.

Given the inconclusive nature of these opinions, the Supreme Court’s decision to take the case was somewhat surprising; the Court usually would have waited for one or more of the other climate change cases percolating through the courts (see below). It appears that the Court recognized the enormous public policy implications of this case, and chose to resolve these issues at the first possible opportunity.

On the question of EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, we have a powerful “plain text” argument that the Clean Air Act explicitly authorizes EPA to protect against adverse effects on “weather or climate.” This statutory question is actually no harder than other recent environmental cases that resulted in favorable -- and unanimous -- decisions. See Whitman v. American Trucking Assns, 531 U.S. 457 (2001) (Scalia, J., upholding national ambient air quality standards); S.D. Warren Co. v. Maine Bd. of Environmental Protection, 126 S.Ct. 1843 (2006) (Souter, J., construing the plain meaning of “discharge” under Clean Water Act).

As to whether EPA may decline to act based on “policy considerations” that are not found anywhere in the statute, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rebuffed agencies that base regulatory decisions on criteria that Congress has not put into the relevant law. Here, Congress said that EPA’s only role is to decide whether the climate change caused by these emissions is “reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Anxious to avoid that issue, EPA instead relied on factors such as its preference for voluntary action.

If we are successful on both issues, the Supreme Court would send the matter back to EPA with instructions for it to then make the required determination whether greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting climate change is “reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

The case will be argued on November 29, 2006 and will be decided before June of 2007. This decision will have significant impacts for the other pending global warming cases. First, the auto industry has sued California, arguing that the state’s GHG vehicle standards are illegal. (They have also filed two parallel cases against Vermont and Rhode Island, two of the states that have adopted California’s standards.) If the Court rules favorably on Clean Air Act authority, the states will likely prevail.

The other major climate change case is a challenge by States and environmental groups to EPA’s refusal to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants on the grounds that it lacked Clean Air Act authority to do so. This case will be deferred pending the decision in Massachusetts, which should resolve the issues in this case as well.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Republican smackdown! Warner to challenge Inhofe for top Republican spot on Senate global warming panel

Senator John Warner (R-VA) dropped a bombshell this afternoon, announcing he would try to bump Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) from his perch as the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The panel's new chair, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), has promised hearings on global warming starting in January. Inhofe is infamous for declaring global warming a hoax. Warner has seemed open to some sort of plan to limit global warming pollutants, though he has not backed a specific legislative plan.

Inhofe has vowed to fight to retain his post. Here are their respective statements:

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

For Immediate Release Contact: John Ullyot
November 17, 2006 202-224-6290


Today, Senator John W. Warner, R-Va., announced that he will seek election as Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works (EPW) in the next Congress, which begins in January.

Senator Warner is the senior Republican on the Committee, having served on the panel since January 1987.

Senator Warner said, “Many in the media have inquired of my intentions for committee positions in the upcoming Congress, now that I have concluded my Chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in keeping with the six-year term limit established by Republican Conference rules. I intend to remain on the Armed Services Committee as the second-ranking Republican on that panel.

“As the senior Republican on the Senate EPW Committee, I intend to submit my name for election as the Ranking Minority member of that panel. I will do so in recognition of established Senate Republican Conference rules and precedents.

“Under these protocols, Republican Committee members first elect their chairman or ranking member, and their choice is then ratified or rejected by the full Republican Conference. These rules and precedents recognize the seniority of membership on the Committee as the principal factor in making such decisions.

“In the coming weeks, I look forward to working with the new membership of the EPW Committee as it makes this decision for submission to the Republican Conference.”

-- 30 --

CONTACTS: MARC MORANO (202) 224-5762, MATT DEMPSEY (202) 224-9797

WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, today stated the following regarding Senator John Warner’s announcement that he will seek election as Ranking Member of the EPW Committee in the next Congress.
“I have long been a friend of John Warner; however, I think he has misunderstood the rules. I intend to retain my leadership position in the 110th Congress, returning as the Ranking Member of the EPW Committee,” Senator Inhofe said.

# # #

In big rebuke to Bush, more than 20 states adopt tougher mercury standards

It's nothing less than a stunning rebuke to President Bush and his politically-managed Environmental Protection Agency.

No fewer than 22 states -- red and blue alike -- are moving forward with tougher controls on mercury from coal-burning electric power plants than sought by the Bush administration.

(States were under a deadline to submit their plan to EPA today.) This development comes the same week as a resolution by the American Medical Association that gave a decisive thumbs-down to the industry-friendly Bush approach.

The tougher state rules are based in large part on a model prepared by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. The association's release is below.


November 17, 2006 (202) 624-7864 (office)
(301) 806-6111 (cell)

Many State Programs More Stringent than Federal Mercury Rule

Dissatisfied with the federal Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR), adopted by EPA on March 15, 2005, over 20 states have adopted or are pursuing their own plans to address mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. These state plans are calling for such provisions as stronger emission limits, shorter deadlines and limitations on trading, all of which address deficiencies that states have identified in the federal rule.

States are required to submit their mercury plans today – November 17, 2006. They can base their plans on EPA’s model rule (contained in CAMR) or develop their own, more stringent, programs. “State and local clean air agencies are deeply concerned about the serious public health and environmental dangers posed by power plant mercury emissions, and are determined to put in place programs that will provide an adequate measure of protection to the citizens they serve,” said Bill Becker, Executive Director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA). “Many have concluded that the federal mercury rule is simply not up to the task of tackling this tremendous problem. Therefore, nearly half the states in the nation have moved to adopt programs that will yield greater mercury reductions on a faster schedule.” In considering strengthening alternatives to CAMR, many states have relied upon a model rule that NACAA developed in November 2005 to guide them.

While not all state rules have been completed, it is clear that states have adopted or are pursuing a variety of measures to include in their plans, many of them far more stringent than EPA’s program. Based on the latest information, state plans are divided as follows: 22 states have adopted or are pursuing programs significantly more stringent than the federal rule, 24 state programs are largely consistent with the federal model, and the remainder are uncertain or are not required to participate. Among the more stringent state programs, strengthening measures include the following: 15 states call for greater reductions (most in the 80-90-percent range, as compared to 70 percent under CAMR); 18 will require the reductions to be obtained years sooner than under CAMR; and 17 will prohibit or restrict trading of emissions, which is allowed by the federal rule. The following states have adopted or are pursuing more stringent programs:


New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York

North Carolina

NACAA is the national association of air pollution control agencies in 54 states and territories and over 165 metropolitan areas across the country. The association, until recently, was known as the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators (STAPPA) and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials (ALAPCO).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A green guide to the new Congress

For a green guide to the new Congress -- and a challenge to Democrats before the current Congress expires -- see

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

DaimlerChrysler lobbyist named chief of staff for key House committee

Rep. John Dingell, incoming chairman of the key House Energy and Commerce Committee, today announced that a DaimlerChrysler lobbyist would become the committee's chief of staff in the new Congress.

Dennis Fitzgibbons has been the company's director of public policy since 2000.

Previously he worked for Dingell and the committee. During the 1990s he was known as a behind-the-scenes opponent of tougher clean-air standards (for example, when the Clinton administration set tougher standards for smog and soot).

Dingell has made it clear that he remains concerned about the financial health of the car companies.

AMA gives thumbs down to bad Bush mercury plan; Northeastern states eye tougher controls

The American Medical Association has officially given a thumbs-down to the industry-friendly Bush administration plan, which would permit power companies to trade emissions of toxic mercury. The decision came at the AMA’s semi-annual policy meeting.

(You may recall the Bush administration recently rejected the AMA’s recommendation that the EPA set tougher standards for soot particles in the air. The Bush administration did this to protect the coal-burning electric power industry and other sources of soot. It did not provide a coherent explanation of why it rejected the AMA’s advice as well as that of the agency’s own science advisers – an obvious sign that the decision was tainted by politics. In that regard, it was identical to EPA’s bad mercury decision.)

State pollution control plans in response to the EPA mercury rule – which is being challenged in court – are due this Friday. Many states have already declared they want tougher controls on mercury emissions.

The Bush administration faces the seeds of another possible state rebellion today as northeastern states meet in Richmond to discuss tougher pollution controls on power plants and other sources of smog and soot: Projections done by the Northeastern states confirm that the Bush administration’s cleanup strategies will not be adequate to meet public health standards.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Environmental stalwarts join key Senate panel

Democratic Senate committee assignments were announced today, and some real "freshmen" environmental stalwarts were named to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

New senators-elect joining the panel include Ben Cardin of Maryland, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Cardin, Sanders and Klobuchar were all endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters in the recent election. Environmentalists are also expected to embrace Whitehouse, who ousted environmentalist-backed Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bush nominee as White House regulatory czarina: "I actually am proud of" controversial writings

Susan Dudley, nominated by President Bush to head the OMB regulatory review office, underwent a fairly gentle grilling today by a U.S. Senate committee.

Dudley, whose controversial anti-regulatory writings on behalf of a polluter-funded think tank have sparked controversy, was asked by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) if she had made any mistakes.

"I actually am proud of the things that I have written," said Dudley, who couldn't think of a thing to retract. (Later, while Carper was temporarily out of the room, Dudley conceded she had been wrong in being critical of EPA attempts to reduce interstate air pollution.)

Carper noted later that "in politics, our friends come and go. Our enemies accumulate."

Aside from committee Chairman Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the only Republican senator present was John Warner of Virginia, who briefly introduced Dudley and concluded "I wish you luck, and you are on your own." Collins said she likely will vote for Dudley, though said committee action would be deferred until December.

Public interest groups square off against corporate lobbyists on OMB nomination

NOMINATIONS: Time running out on OMB pick Dudley

Lauren Morello, E&E Daily reporter – Nov. 13, 2006

The Bush administration's controversial pick for the top regulatory post at the Office of Management and Budget testifies today before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The panel will hear from Susan Dudley, the White House nominee to head OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which reviews regulations developed by a wide range of federal agencies.

Whether the full Senate will have time to consider Dudley's nomination during the lame duck is unclear. The Homeland Security Committee is not expected to vote on Dudley before the end of this week, when lawmakers will adjourn for the Thanksgiving holiday, sources on and off the Hill said.

Homeland Security Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other lawmakers on the panel have been tight-lipped on their opinion of Dudley. Only ranking member Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has publicly commented on Dudley, stating in a September letter that Dudley "is known for questioning the economic justification for certain environmental, safety, and health protections, including ones that have proven important to safeguarding the well-being of many Americans."

The tight timing of the lame duck, combined with the strong opposition Dudley has drawn from environmental and public interest groups, could lead President Bush to give Dudley a recess appointment, many of those tracking the nomination said.

"I would say the chance of getting her through [a Democratic-controlled] Senate next year are slim to none," said Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch, which opposes Dudley's nomination.
While many tracking Dudley's nomination, on both sides of the debate, have seen a recess appointment as a possibility, "logically it seems more likely now than ever," O'Donnell added...

Public Citizen is one of more than 100 environmental and public interest groups that issued a letter to senators last week calling Dudley "the least appropriate nominee ever submitted since OIRA was created." Such opposition has slowly built since the White House announced Dudley's nomination during the August congressional recess.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and Dudley's colleagues at George Mason University's Mercatus Center are among those who have come out in support of her nomination.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Big polluters also took a "thumping" on Election Day; what would Borat say?

President Bush wasn’t the only one who took a “thumping” on Election Day.

Some of the biggest spending big polluters also took a drubbing. In many cases, their political action committees backed candidates who were tossed out. In fact, many of them backed the same losing candidates.

Take a few examples. (All this information comes from Federal Election Commission records tabulated by the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Consider, for example, ExxonMobil, , which by mid-October had reported spending $562,000 on federal candidates (92% of it to Republicans).

Among the losing Senate candidates it supported: George Allen, Conrad Burns, Lincoln Chafee, Mike DeWine, Thomas Kean, Jr., Mark Kennedy, Michael McGavick, John Raese, Rick Santorum, Michael Steele and Jim Talent. Among the losing House recipients of $10,000 from ExxonMobil: Richard Pombo, Rick O’Donnell, and Michael Sodrel.

Take another example, Duke Energy, which recently was before the Supreme Court in a big air pollution case. Duke’s PAC spent $283,000 (79% to Republicans). Bad bets included George Allen, Conrad Burns, Lincoln Chafee, Mike DeWine, Thomas Kean, Jr., Mark Kennedy, Rick Santorum, Michael Steele and Jim Talent. Like ExxonMobil, Duke also poured big money into Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), whose race is still too close to call.

Or consider the Southern Company, considered by many as the most politically wired power company in America. Southern’s PAC spent $162,000 (77 percent to Republicans). Its slate of losers also included Allen, Burns, DeWine, Kean, Kennedy, McGavick, Santorum, Steele, and Talent as well as Harold Ford. Maybe its worst bet was its early contribution to Tom DeLay.

Now if these companies were Borat (the fictitious journalist from Kazakhstan, now of movie fame), they would probably turn to the Democrats next and say “I like-a you. You like-a my check?”

And then they would have the ceremonial running of the elephant.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

For those expecting dramatic changes from the new Democratic House on global warming, listen up:

Note the comments by the new chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as reported by Reuters:

WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - The Michigan Democrat who will head the House Energy and Commerce Committee next year previewed on Wednesday his energy priorities: cleaner cars powered by diesel and electricity, storing waste from U.S. nuclear reactors and probing offshore federal lease deals.

Rep. John Dingell, who has been a U.S. lawmaker since 1955, also gave a strong indication of what he did not plan to do: raise fuel-efficiency standards for U.S. automobiles...

Dingell, whose home district includes Detroit's big three automakers -- Ford Motor Co. , General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group - downplayed the need for boosting U.S. fuel economy rules.

"I'm not sure that there's any urgent needs for us to address those questions," Dingell told CNBC in an interview.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

As we wait for the polls to close, new evidence that pollution cleanup means jobs

As we wait for the polls to close today, there is fresh evidence that pollution cleanup means more jobs. A pollution control industry trade association has reported that more than 1,600 new jobs have already been created by EPA’s truck cleanup and motor vehicle standards:

The organization reported the number of jobs will grow in the future as industry meets new requirements for smog-forming nitrogen oxides control for trucks and buses and new standards for off-road engines. We should note the number would grow even more if EPA makes good on its promise to clean up big diesel train and boat engines.

This is a good reminder that cleaning up pollution can also be good for the economy. Earlier studies have shown that more aggressive cleanup plans translate into more jobs.

The U.S. Department of Commerce used to provide big-picture statistics on pollution control and jobs, but it seems to have discontinued this under the Bush administration. I wonder why.

More jobs would also be created, of course, by a new plan to clean up existing truck engines at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. (See excellent story on this in today’s Los Angeles Times:,1,4506307.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

The port commissions are scheduled to vote on adoption of this plan on Nov. 20.


Other diesel news – EPA concedes one diesel cleanup effort has been a bust. According to BNA’s Daily Environment Report, the EPA has conceded that a mere 9 percent of existing diesel truck engines have installed upgraded software to reduce their nitrogen oxides emissions. Under a celebrated 1998 consent decree, EPA expected that all the engines covered by the decree – more than a million altogether – would have cleaned up within a few years. BNA noted that The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management has reported that more widespread use of the software would significantly reduce smog-forming pollution in the Northeast. Unfortunately, truckers have managed to game the system.


Diesel engine makers fight better smog standards: BNA also noted that diesel engine makers are fighting any effort by EPA to set better public health standards for smog. EPA’s independent science advisers have unanimously called on EPA to set tougher standards.

Tougher standards, of course, would mean even more jobs in the future.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Polluters versus scientists: the battle lines are drawn on EPA smog standard review

The battle lines are drawn: it's big polluters versus independent scientists as the U.S. EPA decides whether to update current national health standards for smog. Here's more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Stricter ozone levels pushed Autos, power plants among the targets
The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 11/05/06

Washington — Environmental organizations, health advocates and the Environmental Protection Agency's own scientists are urging the EPA to tighten federal limits on ozone, or "smog," in America's air.

The agency's scientific advisers on air quality issues last month urged EPA Administrator Steve Johnson to reduce ozone limits by at least 12 percent, and said even that level would endanger the health of persons with asthma, especially children.

"It is the unanimous opinion of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee that the current primary ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard is not adequate to protect human health," the committee's chairwoman, Rogene Henderson, said in a letter to Johnson.

She noted that EPA's scientific staff had concluded that there was no "scientific justification for retaining the current" standard, which was set in 1997.

The committee cited recent experiments purporting to show that when healthy adults breathe air containing the currently legal levels of ozone, their lung functions were impaired...

[on the other side is ] Joe Stanko, a lawyer for a group of electric utilities, including Atlanta-based Southern Co.

"Many state and local officials feel it would be unfair for EPA to move the goal posts before they have finished designing programs," said Stanko, who represents the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council.

Other electric utility organizations, the oil giant ExxonMobil, diesel manufacturers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers also have contacted the agency, questioning the scientific validity of studies indicating the current limits do not adequately protect human health.

EPA agreed to review the ozone limits in May 2007, and finalize the new standard in February 2008, in order to settle a lawsuit brought by the American Lung Association.

The agreement does not commit the agency to tighten the limits, and Johnson could decide the new standard will be the same as the old standard.

Under similar circumstances, EPA earlier this year angered environmentalists and health groups with a decision to leave annual limits for fine-particle soot in the air unchanged.

The American Lung Association, Clean Air Watch and other organizations have begun campaigns to pressure EPA to tighten the ozone limit.

"This is clear and compelling evidence that today's smog standards need to be updated," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. "Smog harms breathers, and the existing standards just don't cut it when it comes to protecting public health."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Washington Post editorial: Supreme Court needs to send a strong message to polluters

The Washington Post has an excellent editorial today on the "Duke" case that was argued before the Supreme Court this week.

The full editorial is at

Here are a few excerpts:

... If the Supreme Court sides with Duke Energy -- as several justices seemed inclined to do -- it will do a great deal of damage.

The Clean Air Act requires utilities to install pollution-control equipment when they modernize plants in a fashion that increases emissions. Many companies long flouted this rule -- and regulators left it unenforced until the Clinton administration. Duke Energy, which runs several power plants in the Carolinas, was one of them. It contends that its considerable upgrades to its facilities don't count as increasing pollution because they don't jack up their hourly emissions but allow the plants merely to run more hours in a day. The company contends that the Environmental Protection Agency changed the rules on it -- suddenly evaluating increases on the basis of actual emissions per year instead of, as it does under a different provision of law, hourly polluting capacity. And it persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to block enforcement against it.

The argument is wrong, and Duke Energy made it to the wrong court....

The court should rule that companies need to obey clean air rules and can't do an end run around the D.C. Circuit when they want to challenge them.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Illinois move forward with plan to curb toxic mercury

Illinois agency OKs plan to cut power plant mercury emissions

[from -- Platts Commodity News, Nov. 2, 2006]

The Illinois Pollution Control Board Thursday approved a proposal that would require electric utilities in the state to cut their mercury emissions by at least 90% by June 30, 2009...

Ameren, Illinois' second-largest utility, and Dynegy, one of the state's largest merchant generators, have agreed to install mercury control equipment on 96% of their generating capacity by 2009, allowing them to meet the targeted reductions, Blagojevich's office said. The remaining 4% of the two companies' capacity will meet the standards by 2012.

The governor's office and environmentalists hailed the rule as tougher than that imposed by the Bush administration earlier this year and said the rule would ultimately provide the steepest mercury cuts from coal-fired generation in the nation.

The first-ever national mercury regulation from the US Environmental Protection Agency provides for an allowance program where power plants can trade emissions credits as they eventually trim their mercury output from 48 tons a year to 15 tons, a reduction of nearly 70%.

"This is a real positive step forward," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, of the Illinois rule's latest approval. "It is particularly significant because it comes from a real coal state. It undercuts the principal argument of the Bush administration, which claimed it wasn't possible to clean up mercury on a quicker timetable than its mercury plan."

[Note: the "nearly 70%" reduction in the Bush plan would not take place until around 2025]

Bush's Poodle Breaks Free

A commentary on the recent British study on global warming, and the upcoming Supreme Court case.

The piece can be found at

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Public radio's "Marketplace" on Supreme Court clean-air case

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A case of power and pollution

How should the EPA measure the pollution spewing from a smokestack? Tomorrow the Supreme Court hears a complex case that pits environmentalists against a power company. Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


KAI RYSSDAL: The Supreme Court is knee-deep in business cases this week. Tobacco company Philip Morris was on the docket today. In a dispute about how steep punitive damages can be. The fun continues tomorrow with a long cast of characters including outdated power plants and dirty smokestacks. Nancy Marshall Genzer reports environmentalists have taken on Duke Energy.

NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: The smokestack takes center stage in this drama. The question: how should the Environmental Protection Agency measure the pollution spewing from a smokestack?That's an important piece of the plot. If the government clocks more emissions, the company has to pay more for pollution controls. Duke wants the Supreme Court to decide emissions should be counted by the hour, no matter how many hours a plant operates.

Duke Energy Spokesman Scott Segal says that's fair, because the company can't control demand for its power.

SCOTT SEGAL: "The power plant will operate longer in order to respond to the increased demand. Well, that has nothing to do with how effective the power plant is at controlling emissions."

But Clean Air Watch President Frank O'Donnell says the bottom line is net pollution, pure and simple.

FRANK O'DONNELL: "If they run a plant, let's say, 60 hours a week as opposed to 30 hours a week . . . Well, of course they're gonna pollute a lot more, even though they claim they're only putting out the same amount per hour."

Another argument the power companies make involves maintenance. Nebraska State Attorney General Jon Bruning filed a friend of the court brief in the case. He says plants could decide to put off repairs if that meant machinery would run longer, requiring extra pollution permits.

JON BRUNING: "It's one of those things where if you think it's going to cost you $2 million in permitting to do some standard maintenance, you're just going to be a little nervous to do it."

Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch says maintenance schmatenance — old plants should be replaced.

FRANK O'DONNELL: "The electric power industry has for many years tried to extend the life of smoky old dinosaurs so that they would continue polluting for decades beyond their useful life."

This case could put those old dinosaurs out to pasture in Jurassic Park. But that's assuming the Supreme Court justices will write an ending to this drama. They could just send it back to a lower court for review.I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.